Washington Department of Ecology is in the early stages of
revising water quality standards for our state, beginning with a
series of meetings to find out what people think. See my story in
yesterday’s Kitsap Sun for an overview, and check Ecology’s news
release for the meeting schedule and process for proposing
It’s hard to tell how aggressive Ecology will be about changing
these standards. Given state budget limitations, the agency may opt
to do little, yet Ecology officials say they are willing to address
problems that people see in the existing standards or in their
What we’re talking about here is changing the definition what
makes good, clean, safe water. Changing the standards could bring
increased attention to individual streams, lakes and bays and
possibly even trigger a new approach for all streams.
Water quality standards are the driver for creating the state’s
list of impaired water bodies (the 303d list). They are used to
write discharge permits for industrial facilities, sewage-treatment
plants and stormwater outfalls. And in cleanup plans for polluted
waterways, they provide guidance for allocating pollution limits
among point and nonpoint sources.
Priorities for changes that could be made are expected to be
announced next spring after all the comments are compiled and
reviewed, including suggestions from state and local officials,
according to Susan Braley of Ecology’s Water Quality Program.
Nationwide standards, which are under continual review by the
Environmental Protection Agency, sometimes require the state to
Some of the ideas that have been kicking about, in no particular
- New standards for total petroleum hydrocarbons
- New standards for certain kinds of pesticides harmful to
- New standards for copper, which are known to affect salmon
- New standards for toxic chemicals known to affect human
- A change in the bacterial standard from fecal coliform to e.
- Allowance for alternative indicators for the presence of human
- Further refinements of temperature standards, which were
updated in 2006 to protect bull trout
- New standards for pH as related to ocean acidification
- New rates for fish-consumption by people, which could change
numerical standards for a range of toxics
If anyone tells me about other ideas, I will add them to the
For more information, check out EPA’s informational website
Quality Standards and Surface Waters. There’s also an
instructive online course focusing on theer Clean Water
Act by the River Network.
To read the standards themselves, go to the Washington
Administrative Code, Chapter 173-201A.
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